Our History

How It All Started

In 2002, Jim Hansen (UVI), Liz Merrill (Social Justice Fund NW), and Gary Sandusky (ICAN) drove down to Bliss, ID, to visit Christopher Hormel (Snake River Alliance, GEPI). As they all talked, they concluded that what Idaho needed was its own publicly supported foundation to fund grassroots work to counter the activities of extremists who denied the pain and suffering in the lives of some of their fellow citizens. That was the seed that grew into Fund for Idaho.

Among the many others with the vision to help this seed to grow were Lisa Leff (Trillium Asset Management), Diane Ronayne (writer, photographer, City Club of Boise), and Rick Johnson (ICL).

Fund for Idaho is the fruit of their labor – a publicly supported foundation started by activists to support the grassroots work of activist organizations in Idaho. These groups take on the root causes of social and environmental justice issues so that Idaho can become a more just, compassionate and healthy place for all its residents, regardless of their race, gender, class, ethnic background, or sexual orientation.

Why It Started

Over the last 25 years, conservative forces have risen to power in Idaho – forces that place no importance on the well-being of all Idaho’s citizens. They have instituted policies that perpetuate the privilege of the wealthy and powerful at great cost to those who lack power or money, especially women,  minorities and low-income people. Driven by personal experiences in their communities, small nonprofits have organized to address these inequities and injustices.

One of the main obstacles these grassroots groups encounter is lack of available funding – a trend that has increased over the last 20 years as the few large foundations with a history of funding progressive work in Idaho have moved their funding to “blue” states instead of funding in red states like Idaho. This trend has been intensified by the economic downturn as all endowed foundations have lost assets, leaving less money available for grants. In Idaho, this has resulted in groups with solid track records having to close their doors.

Fund for Idaho’s founders recognized that the state needed its own source of funding to provide consistent support to our local grassroots groups. The small grants from Fund for Idaho have become life and death for many of the groups we fund.  In addition, most foundations award grants with no input from groups actively working in the issue areas they support, so groups doing the work with the most impact work may not be funded.